Coaching Case Study By Martin Weick
(Transformational Coach, GERMANY)
This case study is about a 26-year-old Venezuelan girl. She will be referred to as Evita. At the time of writing this, 6 coachings sessions had taken place, plus a discovery session before the coaching agreement. Meetings occurred once a week with a session duration of 1 hour and 15 minutes. Note that the conversations were held in Spanish. Any citations made during the case study were translated at the discretion of the author.
Evita is currently employed in a customer service job. She has been working ever since she was 17 years old. She is in a relationship and lives together with her boyfriend in Peru. Her parents separated from each other when she was a baby. She also has a brother who resides in Venezuela. One of the most influential events in her life was the death of her father when she was 14 years old.
After the death of her father, Evita was dragged into “adult stuff”. Her mother blamed Evita for the “things” that happened upon the death of her father as well as afterward. Describing her parents, Evitapointed out that both of them differed very much from each other in their way of thinking and consequently, she was treated differently by each of her parents. Generally, she felt more supported by her father since her mother was controlling. Evita explained the mother’s behavior by the nature of being a teacher. Even though there was support from her father’s side, Evita struggled a lot with the fact that he conveyed the message that feelings and emotions are not to be shared.
Another important aspect of her life journey was her decision to emigrate from Venezuela and leave her mother and brother behind.
When meeting Evita for the first time, she expressed her desire to be herself and comfortable with herself since this would provide her with tranquillity. Tranquillity means emotional stability to her and she thinks that it might lead to betterment in her personal and professional life. She wanted to learn how to love and respect herself. Failing to do so would continue to generate frustration that she had been accumulating since she was a teenager. Asking how the coach could help her, she stated: “helping me to not lose myself from feeling”.
In Evita’s eyes, her mother, work, and the city (in Peru) had been causing her stress. Feeling influenced by her surroundings had been a common theme, especially by her family and friends. This created a lot of insecurity and uncertainty in Evita. She believes that people don’t show empathy for others. Were there more empathy, it would be like a chain reaction, is what she stated in the first session. Due to this perception, frustration often was her go-to reaction and shaped her way of responding. She was hoping that coaching would provide her with tools to be herself which would make her more spontaneous, dynamic, and active.
Approach / Process
To achieve such a personal transformation, the initial step focused on raising awareness about the mind, body, and feelings, putting special attention to the latter.
After the discovery session, a questionnaire and the Wheel of Life exercise were completed by Evita. This information was utilized to gain more clarity about her situation. It uncovered vital aspects of the importance of her challenge, her obstacles, worldview, and perception. It was crucial feedback to engage in the upcoming coaching sessions.
Framing the situation
In the first session, the emphasis was placed on the discovery of the reasons behind her lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Evita recognized that this is related to the interaction and relationship with her mother, especially after her dad’s death. The blaming and controlling nature led to feeling constantly judged and not being good enough. As a teenager, this resulted in self-conscious about her body, which she tried to compensate for with cosmetic adaptations. At the end of the conversation, Evita gained the clarity of feeling in a situation of “self vs others”. She realized that others are merely a “distraction” from being herself. To empower Evita’s feeling of being good enough, the exercise to write a gratitude list was introduced. Appreciation of herself and her surroundings was important to build up. Bolstering her consciousness around the physical appearance of “distractions”, Evita started to note down these situations consciously.
Wiring the situation to feelings
The next session was used to deepen the understanding of her self-judgment and the consequent expectations that she created for herself. She aimed to feel free from other people’s judgment which caused insecurity and doubts about her self-worth. She revealed that the presence of Attention Deficit Order was examined when she was a teenager. A belief in “concentration equals stress” was created. The author would like to add the observation that such a stigma or label of ADD seemed to be imposed by her mother. No difficulties in concentrating, for example during visualization exercises, were observed. It seems to fit the controlling nature of Evita’s mother and Evita’s narrative and feelings towards her.
During this meeting, a feeling visualization was conducted. Evita revealed much of how she perceived her parents’ way of raising her, what impact it had on her, and what her inner voice was made out of it. This was also the first time that she located the physical sensations that tended to sense in situations of lacking self-esteem and connected some of her beliefs and thoughts to those. The greatest insight of this session was that she was the one who wasn’t supporting herself. She understood that she needed to be more relaxed and allow her feelings to be felt. This was when a body scan meditation was suggested as this type of meditation could help to feel the sensations within her body. Note that Evita had mentioned at this point that she had looked into meditation before.
Self-love a solution?
After trying the meditation, Evitabecame aware of the fact that she truly struggles with showing emotions and being vulnerable. She quickly connected it to her father’s way of raising her. This is why she had concluded that she wasn’t an affectionate person; she also noticed that she lacked empathy for herself. This thinking of not being affectionate was projected onto other people, leading to frustration. Recognizing this lack of self-esteem, she was eager to find a balance where she could accept to be vulnerable. In her view, it is a point where she would be able to cry and master her defects or weaknesses. That is why she decided at this moment that she wanted to learn how to accept herself, find her “rhythm” and make self-love a priority (“I need self-love”). Previously, it was established that Evita is an auditory and visual learner. Hence, the author recommended listening to the infamous TED talk “The Power of Vulnerability” by Brene Brown. More so, the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz was proposed as an inspiration.
A new perspective evolves
The 4th session could be seen as a pivotal point for Evita. This is when the key to the personal transformation properly sunk in and manifested itself: empathy towards herself and feeling feelings. This realization derived from understanding vulnerability as well as her “assumption-making” about others’ “distractions”. The shift of her perspective was achieved by a reframing exercise. After allowing others, especially her mother, to influence her for such a long time, she saw the uncomfortable comfort zone of her Ego. It kept telling her that showing love or crying would cause her damage. Viewing everything from a more “brave” perspective, the new definition of Evita that she wanted to live by is captured through attributes such as love, kindness, bonding, feeling, and accepting. She identified her keyword to recognize when her Ego comes alive as “pride”. Evita managed to see herself now as a proud Evita.
Start of a grand transformation
With this new perspective and all the insights from the previous sessions in the back of her mind, Evitacontinued to deepen her understanding of her “blockage” that prevented her to be herself. A feeling exercise was deployed to gain a deeper introspective view. She did discover the sensations in her body that she usually felt when she felt insecure and lacked self-esteem. Her blockage showed up in the throat, chest, and stomach. Evita was now able to recognize and label these sensations. She had a clear expression of the meaning of each of these sensations. In return, she sensed a feeling of letting go of them. She rediscovered her spirit and values which she thought to bring her the desired stability in her life that she is craving. When she said that her fear that she felt as a blockage would convert into a friend, she realized that she was on the right path now: “it’s the start of a grand transformation”.
In the last session at the point of writing this case study, Evita wanted to explore what spirituality means to her. Asking what the meaning and importance are, she clarified that that is the point where she can feel and let go. This is when it came out that her burden to truly let go is the ability to forgive people who she felt judged by for such a long time, especially her mother. Overall, she shared a very positive outlook of saying that she had been able to learn a lot from her past experiences, even though they caused a lot of pain. Being blamed by her mother was something that weighed heavily on her shoulder. But she felt ready to forgive and write a Thank You letter to her mother.
Overall, it can be stated that the approach and process of raising awareness in mind, body, and feelings were successful to commence Evita’s transformation to being herself.
In the beginning, her mind was shaped by a lack of self-esteem which her body signaled physically in various body parts as well as emotionally by frustration. It was important to seek comprehension and connection to the origin of this lack of self-esteem. The coach-client-relationship provided enough safe space to feel comfortable sharing her feelings, which she felt deprived of doing. Furthermore, it was a judgment-free environment. No one told her how to behave or what she should or shouldn’t do. Another insight into her mind occurred when she managed to link this perception of being judged by others to a lack of empathy for herself.
After making this mindful connection, the feelings had to be brought into consciousness. The focus was to allow sensations to be felt and connect them to the emotions that were created through her mind formations. Throughout the sessions, visualizations were deployed several times to allow Evitaa a deeper look inside herself, as opposed to the outside what was her dominant way of gauging her life experiences and coming to conclusions about herself.
Having the mind, body, and feelings more order than before, Evita was able to see a different perspective about herself. She could eventually recognize when the self-critical voice became active. She learned how to feel feelings in these moments and what they could mean to her.
Raising awareness about the mind, body, and feelings led to building a solid foundation to start her transformation. She already started the next step of accepting and letting go.
Lastly, it should be noted that it is the author’s opinion that the step of gaining awareness worked relatively well since it seemed to be evident that Evita had already spent time on her personal development. Her open-minded attitude and understanding of life were already in place which might have helped her to grow as rapidly.
Although the author is familiar with the cultural background and the way of communicating or interacting, there might be some exercises or tools that could support a coach in a leaner process following the cultural needs. However, the cultural familiarity of the author was very helpful to establish a connection to the client.
The use of an autobiographic tool at an early stage of the coaching process could have made it easier to uncover some important aspects of the client’s view and experiences. It might have made it more effective for the client to comprehend the life experiences and gain insights about them to move forward.
Another learning is that the author would like to feel more comfortable around sharing recommendations or resources that could help clients. In this case, some resources were eye-opening for the client’s journey.
Letting go of expectations or worries, as well as trusting oneself, allowed the author to find a freely-flowing interaction with his client. It created trust and connection with the client.